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Video Quality

Now, not all is perfect in the Video Quality. The player has improved FF/RW controls to try and fix previous complaints. It offers the user options of playing back at 2x, 4x, or 8x in forward or reverse. FF worked decently at 2x and at 4x, but at 8x became unstable and the image would bounce and stutter badly even on the P3. Rewind seemed to have a tracking problem, if you used rewind through certain parts of movies, even at 2x which is fairly slow, it would suddenly JUMP to the beginning of the given chapter and the visual rewind through a section was missed. This has to do with how DVD data is organized and how a player reads it in reverse, but other players make it work so it must be mentioned. Rewind was strained at 2x, and at 4x and 8x it was HARSH. The FF works fine at 2x and 4x, but the weakness at 8x will require improvement. Pause works well, but as said in the interface section, the pause showed a lag from the time you select PAUSE till the image actually PAUSES. Hitting PLAY to return to normal playback from a PAUSE, FF, or RW also showed the lag.

There was also an issue with the Closed Captions. The player really couldn't handle them. It stuttered badly when Closed Captions were turned on. Using Subtitles rather than Closed Captions worked fine in most cases (an occasional barely noticeable stutter) and allowed smooth playback with movie text onscreen. PowerDVD, never known as a video champion, can play *2* subtitles/captions onscreen at once without glitches, so MGI should address this. Since Subtitles work adequately, SoftDVD is workable as is for users wanting screen text, but Closed Caption is still a DVD standard, so I hope it is fixed for retail.

I generally like the imagery of SoftDVD 6. The colors are really beautiful, the clarity is decent, and the decode on most titles was adequate. It really did seem to strain on the Celeron, and even seemed taxed on the P3 when playing tough scenes with FF or RW. FF/RW controls are useable, but need work. The very adequate time-slider should make up for problems with FF/RW as it seems to work very well. It bothers me a bit that the P3 at 600mhz with 128 megs of name brand ram, was strained when HW ACCEL was off. I've played Cinemaster very well at 1/2 that speed and had GOOD results. Whether it is the always iffy ATI equation, or just the decoding engine needing some fine tuning, it definitely could be stronger. If a P3 600 stutters with no other apps running, its probably a player issue. With Hardware Acceleration on, both Celeron and P3 were fine.

Not quite up at the level of the Big 3 for video, but with Hardware Acceleration working, most users wont miss a beat. If they can fix the issues above, they may have some serious market potential. SoftDVD's playback is not far behind PowerDVD's quality as it stands now, so the future could be very bright. All the Big 3 major players have tweaked their own engines for more performance over time, and this engine is all new and may have a lot of untapped potential.

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